By Kaustav Bera
The all exciting AFC Cup, the second tier of Asian club competition is back as India's big guns look to strut their stuff against top teams from across the continent. Indian clubs have significantly underachieved in this tournament but the Kolkata giants will look to break the ice this time round.
East Bengal has qualified for the AFC Cup for the fourth consecutive time and well the journey to get here has always been fruitful for the Red and Gold. Having said that, the club has not quite impressed as they have managed to get past the group stage of the AFC Cup only on one occasion, i.e 2004, where they bowed out to Syria's Al-Jaish on a 3-0 aggregate.
The Federation Cup winners are brimming with confidence after their first round win against Selangor FA of Malaysia and their efficient displays in the domestic IFA Shield as well as Kolkata League. They will look to continue their good form when they travel to Vietnam.
Goal.com takes a look at the Vietnamese Cup winners...
A relatively new club to the Vietnamese scene, Sai Gon FC have a strong financial backing and are thus able to attract players of the highest quality, and having won the Vietnam First Division in 2011 and earning promotion, they have managed to win the Vietnamese Cup last season. They also managed a respectable third place finish in their first season on top.
They are a fast pacey team with two deadly strikers leading their attack, Cameroonian Amougou and Oguwike Ameka of Nigeria who are a handful for any defense. Moreover their midfield is controlled by naturalized Brazilian, Rogerio who adds the necessary steel in the middle of the park.
The team also has six Vietnamese internationals in their side, thus giving them plenty of big match experience.
The lack of local support is a negative for the club as they are not an established name yet in Vietnam. Moreover with players assembled from different regions, the supporters do not find one of their own, to come and cheer. This might play into the hands of East Bengal, especially with the home support not completely behind their team.
A not so established defense and an inexperienced midfield comprising of 20 year old Ugandan, Moses Oloya might be run over by the experienced and cool customers from India.
The V-League, having just started, Sai Gon have made a perfect start, beating a strong Binh Duong side 1-0 at home and are thus full of confidence for this tie.
|BEST AFC CUP PERFORMANCE
This is their first participation in the AFC Cup after winning the Vietnamese Cup last season. In the first round of the group stage, they surprised quite a few by beating Singaporean side, Tampines Rovers 3-2 away from home.
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Do You Think East Bengal will be able to continue their good form as they travel to Vietnam? Will they record their second win in a row?